Twelve jurors were seated late Tuesday afternoon in the trial of a former Eutawville police chief charged with the 2011 shooting death of an unarmed black man.
That means opening arguments could start Wednesday in the Orangeburg County courtroom. Judge Edgar Dickson is presiding.
Defense attorney Wally Fayssoux of Greenville withdrew a request made Monday for a change of venue, saying at the time publicity surrounding the trial – after weeks of protests nationwide over the killings of blacks by white law officers – makes it impossible for Richard Combs to get a fair trial.
But Fayssoux said Tuesday he is generally pleased with jury members, seven of whom are black and five white.
Combs, facing a murder charge, is facing a minimum of 30 years if found guilty in the death of Bernard Bailey, 54.
The shooting happened May 2, 2011 when Combs was still police chief. Bailey’s daughter received a traffic ticket from Combs for a broken taillight and called her father to the scene. Bailey and Combs argued at the time and the police chief later got an arrest warrant for Bailey for obstruction.
When Bailey went to Town Hall a few days later to argue about the ticket, the chief tried to arrest the 6-foot-6 former prison guard.
Bailey went back to his truck and Combs tried to get inside to turn off the ignition. The two briefly fought, and Combs shot Bailey twice in the chest, prosecutors said.
The Justice Department investigated the shooting and found no cause to bring charges. SLED then investigated; its results are being used in this week’s trial.
The town of Eutawville last year settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Bailey’s family, paying the family $400,000. At the time of his death, Bailey was an assistant manager in a Summerville Walmart.
Combs was placed on leave after the shooting, and the town dismissed him six months later. He is currently free on $150,000 bail.